English Professor Draws Link Between Shakespearean Play and Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises

June 4th, 2014 by 

A popular question in Shakespearean studies today is whether or not Shakespeare grew up Catholic. And if he did, were there Catholic texts that influenced his writing?

These questions are of particular interest to Lee Oser, professor of English at the College of the Holy Cross, and the subject of an essay he authored that was recently published in Literary Imagination, a peer-reviewed journal published by Oxford University Press.

In the essay, “Imagination, Judgment, and Belief in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’” Oser draws a connection between a passage in The Spiritual Exercises (1548) of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, and a famous speech on imagination by Theseus in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Oser examines a specific passage in The Spiritual Exercises where Ignatius instructs retreatants to subject the length, breadth, and depth of Hell to the eyes of the imagination. Oser goes on to say that Shakespeare seizes on this implicit defense of imagination and makes that a question in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” through Theseus’ speech. This question asks whether imagination is something people should believe in, or whether it is a kind of gull, a deceiver, of the mind.

Oser’s essay builds on the work of scholars such as Garry Wills and Stephen Greenblatt, both Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, who have connected Shakespeare to Jesuit circles in England. It is this body of scholarship that supports Oser when he points to five specific areas in Theseus’ speech that very closely parallel Ignatius’ writings in The Spiritual Exercises.

When asked how he discovered the connection, Oser mentioned that he had Theseus’ speech fairly well memorized, but it was really because of his daily regimen of reading Latin that he was able to make the link between these two distinct texts.

The essay isn’t Oser’s only foray into Catholic literature. He brings a Catholic perspective to his second novel, “The Oracles Fell Silent,” which was released earlier this year. He spoke to Telegram & Gazette about the new book earlier this year.

| More
Tags

Comments are closed.

Sort By:
or
05/22/15 Holy Cross Awards 724 Bachelor of Arts Degrees During Commencement Exercises
05/22/15 First Nativity School of Worcester Student to Graduate from Holy Cross
05/21/15 Members of Class of 2015 Honored at Academic Prizes and Awards Presentation
05/20/15 Holy Cross Students Raise $36,500 for Cancer Research
See All
See All

Featured Videos

See video
Senior Spotlight: Holy Cross Is the Place to Strive Academically and Athletically, Says Evan Ocello

Watch Video >
See video
Senior Spotlight: Holy Cross Provides Small Campus with Big Reputation, says Valedictorian Nick Cormier

Watch Video >
See video
Senior Spotlight: Liberal Arts Education Connects Science and the Social Sciences for Raven Tukes

Watch Video >
More

What’s Happening on Campus

05/22/2015

NROTC Commissioning

See More >
05/22/2015

Commencement Excercises

See More >
05/22/2015

Commencement Reception

See More >
05/29/2015

Collaboration: James Stroud ‘80 and Center Street Studio

See More >
More

Holy Cross in the News

05/22/15

First Nativity School of Worcester Student to Graduate from Holy Cross

When Joao Vickttor “Joveto” De Carvalho ’15 walks across the stage at the College of the Holy Cross Commencement exercises, not only will he be the first member of...

05/19/15

‘New Brookings Study Shows Holy Cross Adds Value to Alumni Mid-Career Earnings’

The College of the Holy Cross fares well in new report from the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, titled “Beyond College Rankings, a Value-Added Approach to Assessing...

05/19/15

‘USA Today Ranks Holy Cross No. 2 Among the 10 Best Roman Catholic Colleges in the Country’

USA Today College

According to USA Today College, the College of the Holy Cross ranks No. 2 among the 10 best Roman Catholic colleges in the country. The article lauds Holy Cross for its...